Carlow too strong for Antrim as Christy Ring Cup final produces nine-goal thriller
Carlow 5-23 Antrim 4-15
James Doyle hit four goals in a memorable display as Carlow returned to next season’s Liam MacCarthy Cup with victory over Antrim at Croke Park.
Carlow last won the Christy Ring Cup when they beat Down 1-15 to 0-14 in the 2009 decider, but this was a thrilling, high-scoring encounter, with the teams sharing nine goals.
Doyle had hit a hat-trick by half-time when Carlow led by 11, while Denis Murphy’s 11 frees also helped his side to victory.
Doyle scored another goal late on but Martin Kavanagh’s strike had sealed the win, and despite a personal tally of 2-9, Ciaran Clarke came out on the wrong side of the result.
Eoghan Campbell and Neil McManus scored the other Antrim goals; Campbell also saw red in the closing stages.
Carlow held a 3-12 to 1-7 lead at half-time — Denis Murphy had pointed a massive free from inside his own ‘65’ after just two minutes.
Paul Coady added to that score before Clarke responded with Antrim’s first point from the left touchline in the seventh minute.
Antrim hit three points in a row, with Clarke continuing to add to his tally, but Murphy and Diarmuid Byrne kept Carlow in touch.
The game continued to flow, aided by the perfect conditions. Paul Shiels and Clarke tagged on further scores for Carlow but Murphy was deadly accurate up the other end and maintained his 100 per cent strike rate from frees to draw the teams level for the fourth time.
But Doyle struck for his first goal in the 23rd minute — he latched on to an Eddie Byrne pass to finish past Chris O’Connell.
That was the killer score for Carlow, because despite Campbell’s goal later in the half for Antrim they were always chasing the game. Goals from Doyle in the 29th and 34th minutes pushed Carlow into a comfortable 3-12 to 0-7 half-time lead.
Antrim began the second half well, Clarke landing a goal in the 38th minute. He kept up the fight and added his second goal late on — McManus had also found the net from a free.
But Kavanagh’s 47th-minute goal was the difference, while Doyle added another goal and Campbell got a straight red late on.
Scorers — Carlow: J Doyle 4-1, D Murphy 0-11 (0-11f), M Kavanagh 1-2 (0-1f), D Byrne, J M Nolan 0-3 each, P Coad, R Kelly, C Nolan 0-1 each. Antrim: C Clarke 2-9 (0-7f, 0-1 65), N McManus 1-2 (1-1f), E Campbell 1-0, P Shiels, P McGill, C McKinley, D McKernan 0-1 each.
Carlow: J Carroll; A Corcoran, P Doyle, G Bennett; R Coady, D English, R Kelly; J Kavanagh, D Byrne; J M Nolan, M Kavanagh, J Doyle; D Murphy, E Byrne, P Coady. Subs: K McDonald for J Kavanagh (43), C Nolan for Coady (46), S Murphy for D Byrne (58), J Murphy for D Murphy (69), S Whelan for Doyle (72).
Antrim: C O’Connell; S McCrory, J Dillon, S Rooney; C Johnson, P Burke, A Graffin; C McKinley, P Shiels; N McAuley, C McCann, E Campbell; C Johnston, N McManus, C Clarke. Subs: N McKenna for McAuley (26), D McKernan for McCann (h-t), M Donnelly for Dillon (51), C Cunning for Johnston (68).
Referee: M Murtagh (Westmeath).